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Washtenaw United: Packard Health Maintains Service Through Pandemic, Learns Lessons For The Future

Raymond Rion
United Way of Washtenaw County
Dr. Raymond Rion

The coronavirus pandemic has affected virtually everyone, but it has been particularly difficult for those who struggle with access to health care.  On "Washtenaw United," WEMU's David Fair talks with Dr. Raymond Rion, executive director of Packard Health.  It is the non-profit mission to help that part of the community, but there are changes in how many of those services are rendered. 

WEMU has partnered with the United Way of Washtenaw Countyto explore the people, organizations, and institutions creating opportunity and equity in our area.  And, as part of this ongoing series, you’ll also hear from the people benefiting and growing from the investments being made in the areas of our community where there are gaps in available services.  It is a community voice.  It is 'Washtenaw United.'


Dr. Rion has practiced at Packard Health since 2003, serving as Medical Director 2007-2014 and as Executive Director since 2012.  He is a recognized leader on the integration of family medicine and behavioral health care.


Packard Health


Though the way we work may temporarily change, our commitment to the community will not.  United Way has responded to our community’s most pressing needs for nearly 100 years.  We will continue to be there to help in every way we can.  

Most importantly the COVID-19 Community Relief Fund will help ensure that there is financial support for individuals, families and community organizations.  

Our Community Relief Fund grants are providing unrestricted operating support to local human service nonprofits and community groups meeting immediate, emergent, and unanticipated needs of people and communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Prioritizing response efforts that attend to racial inequity remains a central tenet in United Way’s grant making as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to reveal the disproportionate impact of this virus on people and communities of color. (See Washtenaw County COVID-19 data.

Grants made thus far have prioritized acute community needs related to: 1. direct assistance to individuals and families 2. food security and hunger relief, 3. supports to essential workers.  To learn more about the fund and investment made, click here

Emergency funding from United Way of Washtenaw County will help to ensure that Packard Health can continue to serve low-income people of color and those hit the hardest by this crisis. 

Packard Health serves the most vulnerable individuals in our community every day of the year, but "vulnerable" is taking on entirely new dimensions during the COVID-19 crisis.  Packard serves patients who are coping with homelessness, mental health issues, substance abuse issues, or chronic medical conditions, all of which render them more at-risk for potentially life-threatening COVID-19 complications, are even more critically in need of continuing support and care right now. 

By rapidly launching telehealth services at the end of March 2020, Packard Health has been able to provide near seamless care in both primary care and behavioral health.  In the process, it continues to help keep the most vulnerable residents of Washtenaw County out of local emergency rooms, which is more important than ever. 

Systematically marginalized people are challenged in the best of times.  COVID-19 is hitting Southeast Michigan hard, and low-income communities of color are the hardest hit.  According to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services, poor African-Americans are contracting and dying from COVID-19 at disproportionate rates.  As of April 29, 2020, the Washtenaw County Health Department reported that African-Americans or Blacks, who represent only 12.3% of the total countywide population, account for 43% of COVID-19-related hospitalizations.

Packard Health anticipates that the next care phase will be post COVID-19 follow-up. Packard is already receiving new patients for this specific care, as hospitals are discharging recuperating patients rapidly.

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director and host of Morning Edition on WEMU.  You can contact David at734.487.3363, on twitter @DavidFairWEMU, or email him at dfair@emich.edu

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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